Note: This chapter is a 'missing' chapter from the story 'A New Heart'. I thought about where to put it and it seemed to fit best here.
“Good morning, Rona,” said Giles, smiling over at the slayer as he moved to sit at his desk.
He felt that sudden little surge of excitement mixed with happiness that he felt every time he saw her for the first time each day – and sometimes felt just because she had appeared unexpectedly – just because she was there.
“Lorne told me you needed to talk to me,” said Rona, smiling at Giles from her favorite spot sitting in the window near his desk.
In the beginning, he had been nervous, sure she would fall through, but after a while he mostly allowed himself to relax. He knew she really did
balance that well, even when she balanced cross-legged, with one leg hanging over the gardens, and the other into the room. Truthfully, after the distance that Faith had fallen, he was also sure she would be fine. After all, this was only the third floor, and the grass was soft… Perfect, in fact... God, get a grip man! That thought definitely hadn’t ended up where he had intended. He reined his mind back from its suddenly quite NC-17 pathways, and tried to concentrate.
“He would do that,” said Giles, his expression one of bemusement. “Interfering chap.”
“Not as a rule, Giles,” said Rona, frowning slightly.
“No, you’re right of course. Please call me Rupert, Rona. How many years has it been since Sunnydale?”
“Seven,” she said, she smiled warmly at him. “Actually, I was thinking about that. I’ve known you almost exactly half as long as Buffy.”
“Oh… I suppose that is correct,” said Giles, frowning. “Well, we’ve been friends far too long for you to still be calling me Giles.”
“OK…? What’s wrong Gi— Rupert?”
Rona felt excited and uneasy. Only one other person at the council called Giles anything but Giles or Dr. Giles. Other than formal occasions, Ethan mostly called him Ripper.
Giles smiled at that and she smiled back. She found herself wondering what the sudden change was about. Why now? They had worked closely together for a long time — ever since in fact, he had been summarily dethroned by a furious Buffy and Faith.
Giles had needed a liaison with the rest of the board – one who would actually speak to him – Buffy and Faith wouldn’t give him time of day. Xander and Willow had been chilly, and Dawn hadn’t yet been a member, and she wouldn’t speak to him either. And of course, none of them was a slayer.
What had started as a dethroning of Giles, had quickly become an anti-watcher rout. Slayers were in. Watchers were out. Willow and Xander only survived because they had unique expertise in running the council, and they weren’t actually, officially watchers. It had taken months before the slayers had taken another vote to allow some of the watchers back on the board, though they were made permanently ineligible to lead the council.
It had fallen to one of the Sunnydale slayers to liaise with Giles and the other senior watchers. Rona had been the one that both Faith and Buffy trusted and respected the most, and she had been accepted by the newer slayers as well, even the council trained slayers who had not really supported what they had initially perceived was Buffy and Faith’s mutiny.
Rona had been thoroughly uncontroversial. She’d had no real dog in the fight. She hadn’t known Angel or the rest of the fang gang at all, and Spike had never been her favorite vampire. She hadn’t been council trained long enough to sympathize with the council, but it had been enough to earn her the trust of those slayers who had although she’d never developed a real ‘watcher-potential’ relationship. She’d just been discovered when the bringers killed her newly assigned watcher only weeks later. He had died protecting her, earning her lifelong respect and gratitude.
Rona had, however, agreed with Buffy and Faith that Giles had made a dangerous mistake – after all, what he’d done could easily have led to the end of the world. In her opinion that had been far more important than the lives of either vampire or those of their friends. Still, she’d always liked Giles, and didn’t really have a problem working with him, despite his huge misstep. She knew she wasn’t perfect – she hadn't put Giles on a pedestal or had any expectations that he would be a paragon. He was just a person and everyone screwed up sometimes.
Unlike Buffy and Faith, Rona had never had any unrealistic expectations of Giles. Rose-colored glasses had simply never been her thing and she'd never been into hero worship. Even some of the other former potentials were angry with Giles, because they seemed to expect perfection from watchers. Rona was grateful she had never had that kind of indoctrination. Much too much like a cult for her taste.
She and Giles had quickly fallen into a comfortable working relationship, and within that first year, Rona had come to view him as a friend. More than a friend – family – just not that
sort of family. She’d certainly never seen him as a father, or brother. From the very beginning, even back in Sunnydale, she’d been very attracted to him, and at moments, she’d felt a certain ‘spark’ between them, a look in his eye. Then it would be gone, and she’d wonder if she had imagined it.
When he had been wounded in one of their big fights, she’d been terrified he would die, and had finally admitted to herself that she loved him. She hadn’t left his side for three days, something only the nurses and doctor knew, since he hadn’t had very many visitors. It had taken another year, another apocalypse and a similarly grave injury of hers, for Rona to know for sure that Giles felt the same way. However, other than never leaving her bedside, he never made any move to confirm how he felt.
So, life went on in a holding pattern for them both. Rona dated off and on for a while, but, unsurprisingly, none of the relationships seemed to gel, even when the men in question were familiar with her life in all its glory. They just weren’t Giles. Giles didn’t date, though she knew he’d visited an old girlfriend named Olivia once. It had come as something of a shock when she’d finally seen a photo of him and Olivia one night when she had been looking for something in one of his drawers.
Rona had stood gazing at the photo, a slight smile on her face, and he’d come into the room, and she’d set it back in its place and closed the drawer. Even though he hadn’t said a word, She knew he’d known she’d seen the photo. Well, that answered 'that' question. So it was just because he was a watcher, then – that and probably her age. She knew how Giles thought. He would never tolerate a watcher taking advantage of his or her charge. Rona had tried to think how to explain that she had never seen him that way, but she had been certain he wouldn’t react well to any advances from her. Otherwise, he would have let her know how he felt before now.
Giles had been trying for a week to get the courage to talk to Rona. Ever since… Ever since his trip to New York. Now Lorne had apparently dropped the hot potato directly in his lap.
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just…” Giles trailed off.
Rona smiled at him.
God, he loved the way she smiled, how the warm brilliance of her smile contrasted with her silky dark skin – skin he vividly remembered the feel of though he’d only touched her face once, when she'd lain unconscious and still those years ago and he's been so afraid he would lose her. He stood up, and came over to the window where she had perched on the open sill, as she always did when it was nice out. Her window.
“Rona,” he said, his voice sounded hoarse, almost breathy.
Rona looked up at him, and without thinking rose to stand before him. Something was up. She drew a shaky breath. He put his hand on her arm, his thumb unconsciously stroking her skin. She looked down at his hand, then up at his face. His expression was almost… afraid.
She finally figured it out. A shock passed through her, and she couldn’t help it, she reached out and took his other hand – his left in her right hand. Then she reached up and kissed him very lightly on the lips. His eyes fluttered closed just for a moment. Then he just stared at her.
“Rupert?” she said, and it came out like a question. Had she done the wrong thing?
He squeezed her fingers more tightly. Then his arms went around her, and he pulled her close. She slowly returned the favor, savoring the feel of him against her, feeling as if she had arrived… home. She rested her head against his chest, feeling the warmth of his body, and inhaling his scent. How could she feel so content and so excited at the same time?
“Oh go on, Ripper, kiss her already,” said Ethan, making both of them jump.
Ethan was the only person who ever got the drop on either of them. They were certain it was some kind of spell, because Rona’s senses were extremely acute, even for a slayer, and years had made Giles extremely vigilant. Despite her suspicions about the nature of Ethan’s past relationship with Giles, Rona and Ethan had become good friends over the years. She remembered the emaciated, damaged man that Giles had taken custody of.
She’d been the only slayer working at the council's London offices Giles had told anything of Ethan’s history when he’d first returned to England, spending months recuperating at Giles’ country estate and years thereafter keeping a very low profile.
Whatever Ethan’s flaws, Rona could never bring herself to be hostile, and as she had seen Giles and Ethan rebuild their friendship and grow close again, she had slowly begun to trust Ethan. A large part of that trust had been from the positive effect having a friend he could confide in had had on Giles.
“You can shut the door behind you, Ethan,” growled Ripper, holding Rona even closer.
“As you wish,” said Ethan in a voice that was all naughty suggestion.
“You don’t have to make it sound all dirty, Ethan,” said Rona.
Ethan just chuckled as he shut the door.
Then the kiss they had been putting off for all this time finally happened. It was gentle, but passionate. It was intense. It left them both gasping for deep lungfuls of air and staring at each other in amazement.
“I knew it would be good,” she said, reaching up to pull Giles' head down again.
“Then why did you let me wait so long?” whispered Giles, his breath warm on her lips.
“ Rupert,” she said firmly, “You should know me better than that. I’m not into rejection.”
“No, I don’t suppose you would be,” he said, kissing her again. Why in god’s name had he waited so long?